The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has shut down 26 bus operations, declaring them imminent hazards to public safety. This action is the largest single safety crackdown in the agency’s history. Additionally, FMCSA ordered 10 individual bus company owners, managers and employees to cease all passenger transportation operations, which includes selling bus tickets to passengers. The bus companies transported over 1,800 passengers a day along Interstate-95, from New York to Florida.
Following a year-long investigation, FMCSA shut down three primary companies – Apex Bus, Inc. I-95 Coach, Inc. and New Century Travel, Inc. – that oversaw a broad network of other bus companies. The 26 shutdown orders apply to one ticket seller, nine active bus companies, 13 companies already ordered out of service that were continuing to operate, and three companies attempting to apply for operating authority. The various companies are based out of Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
FMCSA began investigating the network of carriers operating along I-95 following a series of deadly bus crashes last spring. FMCSA ordered several bus companies to shut down last summer after a comprehensive compliance review of their operations. The investigation of those operators uncovered additional problems and serious safety violations with other I-95 carriers, and FMCSA investigators have been working diligently ever since to establish the links between the bus networks.
Federal safety investigators found all of the carriers had multiple safety violations, including a continuous pattern of using drivers without valid commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) and failure to have alcohol and drug testing programs. In addition, the companies operated vehicles that had not been regularly inspected and repaired. The companies’ drivers also had serious hours-of-service and driver qualification violations.
These many safety deficiencies, individually and in combination, posed a serious safety threat to passengers and motorists on our roadways.
“These aggressive enforcement actions against unsafe bus companies send a clear signal: If you put passengers’ safety at risk, we will shut you down,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Safety is and will always be our highest priority.”
“The egregious acts of these carriers put the unsuspecting public at risk, and they must be removed from our highways immediately,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “With the help of multiple state law enforcement partners, we are putting every unsafe bus and truck company on notice to follow the safety laws or be shut down.”
On Thursday the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) issued a statement actively supporting the aggressive action taken by the FMCSA.
“CVSA and its members strongly support and are actively engaged in taking aggressive enforcement action against bus operations that disregard safety putting innocent passengers at risk,” said CVSA’s Executive Director Stephen A. Keppler. “We appreciate the leadership exhibited by FMCSA in working with the states to pursue all available options to remove these high-risk operators from the road.”
In addition to the Imminent Hazard Orders, FMCSA is taking further steps to ensure the bus companies they shut down today cannot continue to operate under other names. Under a new FMCSA rule, FMCSA has revoked the carriers’ operating authority and linked the active companies to other companies previously placed out of service. This new rule, published in April, expands FMCSA’s authority to take action against unsafe motor carriers that attempt to evade enforcement by “reincarnating” into other forms or by illegally continuing their operations through affiliate companies. FMCSA will continue to work closely with local, state and federal law enforcement officials to ensure these companies remain out of service.
Consumers are also encouraged to report any unsafe bus company, vehicle or driver to the FMCSA through a toll-free hotline 888- DOT-SAFT (888-368-7238) or FMCSA’s online National Consumer Complaint Database.